Monday, October 09, 2006

Should Speaker Hastert Signal his Resignation?

Not too long ago I crossed swords with Gary at Kennedy vs. The Machine over Speaker Hastert and the Foley resignation. While he has re-thought his position on immediate resignation, Gary still calls for Hastert to announce that he will not seek re-election as speaker in the next Congress.

With regret, I have to say once again that I’m not on Gary’s side in this. And again, he relies on a commentator who spins the story wrong (Salina Zito); there’s no appearance that Republicans “put politics first and consequences second.” let alone allowing Foley to “…have carte blanche access to abusing his power…”

Gary’s argument is based on the fact that Hastert has been losing seats in the House, but even that reasoning circles back to the Foley revelations. To wit:

“Scarcely 10 days ago it seemed probable the GOP would keep its losses to high single digits. The much-ballyhooed wave we had been told to expect since late spring had dissipated. Check that — it was never there. Hastert’s lack of oversight in the Foley matter, however, will put at least an additional half-dozen House seats at risk. It is, in the words of John McGlaughlin, a near “ontological certainty” the Democrats will gain a narrow majority.”
Gary is quite correct in the first two sentences. Where he goes wrong, in my view, is what he says in the next phrase. There is little in the time-line of the Foley e-mails and I-Ms that indicate a lack of oversight on Hastert’s part. In my view Hastert acted correctly given the information he received. And when the lascivious I-Ms came to his attention, the same day they did for the rest of us, Hastert told Foley ‘Resign or be tossed out’ even before the public at large knew what was going on (something the Democrats have not shown they would be willing to do).

So what would be the effect of a pre-election announcement by Hastert that he would not seek re-election?

First of all, it would not take the Foley events off the front page. On the contrary, it would extend the headlines. Democrats and the media (pardon the redundancy) are already swimming like sharks in blood-filled waters. Such an announcement would only ratchet up the frenzy. Witness the media now trying to continue the story over Foley's contact with a consenting adult!

Second, the Democrats owe what success they’ve had in blocking House GOP efforts to one very important strategy…decapitating the GOP leadership. To signal such weakness ahead of time unnecessarily gives them a victory that would build their momentum. Rather than staunch the bleeding, such a move would likely tip the balance of an additional House seat or two against Republicans.

I personally think very little of the civic mind that allows a vote to be determined by the Foley escapade. It’s been blown so far out of proportion that it’s difficult to take seriously anymore. I commend to Gary the recent column by Mark Steyn for perspective.

Should the GOP lose the house, Hastert should not seek any caucus leadership. But if the GOP retains the majority, his choice would depend on how many seats were lost, and who the alternative would be.

The biggest problem for the House Republicans over the years is loss of leadership at the top. When will we learn to stand by our guys?

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